Interview with Amber Barcel
What would you say are a few of the most impactful moments of your upbringing that shaped your understanding of healthcare?
I was adopted from South Korea and grew up in rural Nebraska. Everyone went to the same family doctor. If you suddenly fell ill, you could always get an appointment that day.
I had a fear that every time I went to the doctor, the entire county would know when and why.
My family physician, eye doctor, and dentist were all men. It was my understanding that only men are doctors. I also have no medical family history. Going to a healthcare facility and filling out that history paperwork always made me feel like I was a disappointment to my providers. I still struggle with doctors that think it’s insensitive to identify medical conditions with my ethnicity. I can tell that for most of them, it makes them uncomfortable to link anything to my Korean heritage. I wish they would.
Have you ever been helped, inspired, or impacted by a nurse? If so, can you share the story?
My elementary school nurse, Ms. Martha, was one of my favorite people! She was always so compassionate and kind, whether I was lying about feeling sick or not. I feel like I took a lot of naps on her cot! I still remember exactly how her office looked.
How do you define a healthy community?
In a healthy community, it feels emotionally safe accessing healthcare. Patients should fully understand confidentiality and its limitations. A healthy community can ask their providers anything without fear of judgement or condescension. A healthy community embraces all identities, incomes, education levels, and circumstances.
My family physician, eye doctor, and dentist were all men. It was my understanding that only men are doctors. I also have no medical family history. Going to a healthcare facility and filling out that history paperwork always made me feel like I was a disappointment to my providers.
Let’s talk Planned Parenthood. How can our community best help support you, PP, and the important work you’re doing in this hostile political climate?
Thank you for asking! Continue using our health centers and services. Encourage others to do the same and make sure that you are speaking accurately about what we provide. You can also call your elected officials, donate, and share your Planned Parenthood stories!
What about health/healthcare scares you or makes you feel most vulnerable?
I really worry about the future of birth control access. We’ve come so far and I fear that it will all be taken away. For me personally, I am terrified of a major medical expense. Healthcare is hardly affordable, even with insurance.
If you could tell the medical community one thing about how to better support you- what would it be?
I know that you see many patients all day, every day. Know that when I come to you, I have a lot of questions and I’m not good at asking them. Please be patient with me. I know you’re feeling rushed, but please don’t appear that way when you’re in the room with me.
Amber is a community educator at Planned Parenthood, where dynamic teens give her a great deal of hope for the future of healthcare access. She lives and works in Omaha, Nebraska. Portraits by Anna Finocchiaro, interview by Sana Goldberg, RN.